School starts in two weeks and while my mind is still in summer mode, I am starting to think about the beginning of the year. This is the plan I have for the first two weeks of school. My students have 7 period days and attend class for 45 minutes, so these lessons are designed with that time frame in mind.
Day 1–One Word Challenge
This is a great activity for allowing students to think about the upcoming year. I put this up on a PowerPoint slide deck and you can find it here: One Word Challenge.
Day 2–Get to Know You Icebreaker
Students create a name tag. After they are done with their name tag, they place it at the edge of their desk and we go around the room sharing and listening to everyone. I hang on to them and pass them out at the beginning of each class for two weeks. It allows me to learn names quickly (instead of always referring to the seating chart) and for others to learn the names of their classmates. I post this on a slide:
NAME TAG CREATION INSTRUCTIONS
Make a tent with the 8 ½ x 11 sheet of paper
Use at least 4 different colors to complete the activity
Write your first name, large enough for all to see
Top left corner–something you love to do
Top right corner–what you hope to learn in this class
Bottom left corner–your favorite novel
Bottom right corner–draw a picture that symbolically represents you at this moment in time
Day 3–Read/Write Survey
This survey gives me a chance to learn more about each student and their likes/dislikes, along with strengths/weaknesses as seen through their eyes. You can find the survey here.
Days 4 and 5–Stations
This is a fun way for students to look at your syllabus, find out where things are located in the classroom, and get to know each other more. There are all kinds of resources for this, but I bought this one a few years ago and will use it again this year.
Days 1 and 2–Setting Up an English Notebook
I use a modified version of the AVID notebook, and we spend two days creating it. There is a reference section at the back where students glue and tape important handouts for my English class, along with setting up the section for STEM (vocabulary) words. While it does take time to cut and paste, once it’s set up, you’re good to go for the year. Students add to the notebook each day, so it’s a vital component in my class. If you Google “AVID notebook,” you’ll see a bunch of posts about it, but if your district ever offers you the chance to take an official class on this, I highly encourage you to do so. So much of it is adaptable for English, and in the 8 years I have been using this style of note-taking and class work, only 3 students have ever lost theirs. If you use a system similar to this, or want to have divider tabs for a composition notebook, you can find the resource for this here.
Day 3–Write to Me and setting up Writing Portfolios
It’s nice to have a writing sample from students early on. Not only does it help in getting to know students, but after reading 180 of these letters, I can see what areas of writing students struggle with so I can reteach/hone those specific skills. For example, one year I assumed that my 8th graders had command over capitalization. However, after reading these letters, I realized I had assumed incorrectly. Looking at my year-long curriculum, I figured out a good place to review these rules and created a fun assignment to reinforce when to capitalize and when to not. If you’re interested in the diagnostic assignment I use, click here.
Students keep all their assignments in a manila folder. (Work is either in their English Notebook or in their Writing Portfolio.) Every time a piece of work is passed back, it is stored in their folder. Throughout the year, students pull out their portfolios and reflect on growth and progress through a reflection sheet. This is also helpful for students to refer back to past essays and see common errors so they don’t make the same errors on the current writing piece.
On this day, students will grab a manila folder, write their name on it, and place the dividers inside. There’s a milk crate for each class and they set the portfolio inside a hanging file. I file these under a large desk that sits by the front door. Often times, I have students decorate these bland manila folders to help create ownership. My only no-no is glitter. One year, a student used glitter puffy paint, and it was beautiful and creative, but it got on everything–desks, the floor, other students. That glitter grew some serious legs! If you’re looking at how I do this in my classroom, you can find it here.
Days 4 and 5–Speed Date books and promote independent reading
Independent reading is a big component of the curriculum in my classroom. Half of the required reading is choice books. After I spend some time explaining the how and why of independent reading, students begin to speed read books in order to help find one they would like to read. I place 4-5 different high-interest genre books at each table, along with this sheet. Students read one book for about 5 minutes and complete the sheet before moving on the the next book. After students read a variety of books, we go to the library and check some out. Many of the speed dating books, from my classroom library, are checked out during this time. A great way to create interest with independent reading!
If you’re not sure what to do or looking for something new to try, I encourage you to give any of these ideas a try. If you do, I’d love to hear how it went! I hope you have a fantastic start to the school year. It’s going to be a good one!